When talking to my former advisor, S, I mentioned that I really wanted to start pursuing cultural studies in religion. We talked a bit about how cultural studies in religion is either done, a) poorly or b) condescendingly. Yet these artifacts are so vital to the religious identities of so many Americans (I do American religion so pardon the centrist here...I don't want to assume too much about other cultures). Yet these people and the things they use are regarded with disdain. They're not "real" religion, whatever that may be.
I enjoy reading Ernesto's posts on comics because I love how serious he takes this stuff. He gives the intellectual reading it deserves. And I particularly like his take on graphic novels vs. film. There is a dignity to graphic novels and comics that people who are not into them miss. The balance between image and word is a delicate balance that when done well creates something that is extremely graceful. It is a push to anticipate what the reader might have in mind as they read. This strikes me a risky maneuver. You will always alienate some while fully capturing other's visions. It reminds me of the debates that surface when casting for a movie based on a novel begins. I'm think of Interview with A Vampire when Anne Rice had a fit about the casting of Tom Cruise as Lestat. I remember myself being so outraged when I heard, and then totally changing my mind when I saw him in the role. He perfectly capture Lestat for me. It was a moment so magical and mystical that I still remember it years later. It was if a story character become reality.
While reading Ernesto's post on teamwork between writer and artist, I though immediately of children's illustrated books. There is a school of people who really think that children should not be exposed. They argue that books without pictures push children into using their imagination. John Holt, who for the most part I agree with, is one such educator. Now I always found this bogus, and I realized today it's because of my love for comics. I've always appreciated the relationship between the word and the picture. And never found that this dampened my imagination. In fact, my earliest stories where comics without words (I was six and unable to write). Now as I read to my children, I watch how the illustrations capture their imaginations. And the illustrations are so beautiful and often fun. I mean, how can one not love a book with pictures of big hairy monsters called Thelonius Monster's Sky-High Fly Pie? And then The Sound of Colors which has some of the most lovely, haunting images I've ever seen actually moved us to some sniffles. And it's not just either medium: words or pictures. They work together to hammer home beauty, ugliness, humor, seriousness, life itself.
And what's so neat is that Umberto loves comics. He's totally into the Star Wars comics (and I'm embarrassed to say this as I'm sure it makes us look like horrible parents but H has read Hellboy to Umberto. I had to put my foot down on Sandman which Umberto is fascinated by). He collects them already, and they're among his favorite things to look at and listen to. In fact, I think it was Umberto's burgeoning interest that got H and I both back into reading comics. Already my children are learning to appreciate this delicate relationship between image and word, or maybe we're all coming to an understanding that maybe there is not distinction between them.